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beings to be saved,—I could only venture to hope that a few might be spared; but I durst not for a moment contemplate the possibility of my own preservation.
While Captain Cobb, Colonel Fearon, and Major Macgregor of the thirty-first regiment, were consulting together, as the brig was approaching us, on the necessary preparations for getting out the boats, &c. one of the officers asked Major M. in what order it was intended the officers should move off; to which the other replied, "Of course in funeral order?" which injunction was instantly confirmed by Colonel Fearon, who said, " Most undoubtedly the juniors first—but see that any man is cut down who presumes to enter the boats before the means of escape are presented to the women and children."
To prevent the rush to the boats, as they were being lowered, which, from certain symptoms of impatience manifested both by soldiers and sailors, there was reason to fear; some of the military officers were stationed over them with drawn swords. But from the firm determination which these exhibited, and the great subordination observed, with few exceptions, by the troops, this proper precaution was afterwards rendered unnecessary.
Arrangements having been considerately made by Captain Cobb for placing in the first boat, previous to letting it down, all the ladies, and as many of the soldiers' wives as it could safely contain, the-y hurriedly wrapt themselves up in whatever articles of clothing could be most conveniently found; and I think about two, or half past two o'clock a most mournful procession advanced from the after-cabins to the starboard cuddy port, outside of which the cutter was suspended. Scarcely a word was uttered—not a scream was heard—even the infants ceased to cry, as if conscious of the unspoken and unspeakable anguish that was at that instant rending the hearts of their parting parents—nor was the silence of voices in any way broken, except in one or two cases, where the ladies plaintively entreated permission to be left behind with their husbands. But being assured that every moment's delay might occasion the sacrifice of a human life, they successively suffered themselves to be torn from the tender embrace, and with the fortitude which never fails to characterise and adorn their sex on occasions of overwhelming trial, were placed, without a murmur, in the boat, which was immediately lowered into a sea so tempestuous, as to leave us only " to hope against hope" that it should live in it for a single moment. Twice the cry was heard from those on the chains that the boat was swamping. But He who enabled the Apostle Peter to walk on the face of the deep, and was graciously attending to the silent but earnest aspirations of those on board, had decreed its safety.
Although Captain Cobb had used every precaution to diminish the danger of the boat's descent, and for this purpose stationed a man with an axe to cut away the tackle from either extremity, should the slightest difficulty occur in unhooking it; yet the peril attending the whole operation, which can only be adequately estimated by nautical men, had very nearly proved fatal to its numerous inmates.
After one or two unsuccessful attempts to place the little frail bark fairly upon the surface of the water, the command was at length given to unhook . the tackle at the stern was in consequence immediately cleared; but the ropes at the bow having got foul, the sailor there found it impossible to obey the order. In vain was the axe applied to the entangled tackle. The moment was inconceivably critical; as the boat, which necessarily followed the motion of the ship, was gradually rising out of the water, and must, in another instant, have been hanging perpendicularly by the bow, and its helpless passengers launched into the deep, had not a most providential wave suddenly struck and lifted up the stern, so as to enable the seamen to disengage the tackle; and the boat, being dexterously cleared from the ship, was seen, after a little while, from the poop, battling with the billows; now raised, in its progress to the brig, like a speck on their summit, and then disappearing for several seconds, as if engulfed "in the horrid vale" between them*.
The Cambria having prudently lain to at some distance from the Kent, lest she should be involved in her explosion, or exposed to the fire from our guns, which, being all shotted, after
• I was afterwards informed, by one of the passengers on board the Cambria,-for, from the great height of the Indiaman, we had not the opportunity of making a similar observation,-that when both vessels happened to be at the same time in the trough of the sea, the Kent was entirely concealed by the intervening waves from the deck of the Cambria.
wards went off as the flames successively reached them, the men had a considerable way to row; and the success of this first experiment seeming to be the measure of our future hopes, the movements of this precious boat—incalculably precious, without doubt, to the agonized husbands and fathers immediately connected with it—were watched with intense anxiety by all on board. The better to balance the boat in the raging sea, through which it had to pass, and to enable the seamen to ply their oars, the women and children were stowed promiscuously under the seats; and consequently exposed to the risk of being drowned by the continual dashing of the spray over their heads, which so filled the boat during the passage, that, before their arrival at the brig, the poor females were sitting up to the breast in water, and their children kept with the greatest difficulty above it.
However, in the course of twenty minutes, or half an hour, the little cutter was seen alongside the " ark of refuge;" and the first human being that happened to be admitted, out of the vast assemblage that ultimately found shelter there, was the infant son of Major Macgregor, a child of only a few weeks, who was caught from his mother's arms, and lifted into the brig by Mr. Thomson, the fourth mate of the Kent, the officer who had been ordered to take the charge of the ladies' boat.
But the extreme difficulty and danger presented to the women and children in getting into the Cambria seemed scarcely less imminent than that which they had previously encountered; for, to prevent the boat from swamping, or being stove against the side of the brig, while its passengers were disembarking from it, required no ordinary exercise of skill and perseverance on the part of the sailors, nor of self-possession and effort on that of the females themselves. On coming alongside the Cambria, Captain Cook very judiciously called out first for the children, who were successively thrown or handed up from the boat. The women were then urged to avail themselves of every favourable heave of the sea, by springing towards the many friendly arms that were extended from the vessel to receive them; and, notwithstanding the deplorable consequence of making a false step under such critical circumstances, not a single accident occurred to any individual belonging to this first boat. Indeed, the only one whose life appears to have been placed in extreme jeopardy alongside, was one of the ladies, who, in attempting to spring from the boat, came short of the hand that was held out to her, and would certainly have perished, had she not most happily caught hold at the instant of a rope that happened to be hanging over the Cambria's side, to which she clung for some moments, until she was dragged into the vessel. ANONYMOUS.